Struggling to retain the functions of passive when translating English thesis abstracts

Mohammed Nahar Al-Ali and Fahad M. Alliheibi


The thesis abstract, as a genre has a set of communicative functions mutually-understood by established members of the academic community. A vast majority of translation studies of source language (SL) and target language (TL) equivalence seems to have overlooked the inherent relationship between form and function when translating. The purpose of this study was to find out whether the Arab students would translate the English passive structures into their corresponding Arabic passive in order to maintain the pragma-generic functions associated with these constructions or would employ other translation replacements when translating English passives into Arabic. A further purpose was to find out what grammatical factors constrain the choice of these translation options. To fulfill these purposes, we investigated the voice choice in 90 MA thesis abstracts and their 90 Arabic translated versions written in English by the same MA students, drawn from the field of Linguistics. The data analysis revealed that when the Arab student-translators come across the English passive sentence, they resort to either of the following options: Transposing English passives into verbal nouns (masdar), or into pseudo-active verbs or active sentence structures, or into vowel melody passives, or omitting these passive structures.

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